Ankara paused its military campaign, dubbed Operation Peace Spring, against Kurdish terrorist groups in northern Syria for the second time on October 22 after the presidents of Turkey and Russia, the leading countries of the Astana format for settling the Syrian crisis, agreed to push back Kurdish fighters from a safe zone along the Turkey-Syria border.
The ten-point memorandum of understanding was reached by Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin following intensive talks on the matter in Russia's Black Sea coastal city of Sochi.
“The actions that will be undertaken and the commitments that have been assumed under this Memorandum will put an end to bloodshed and to the operation that has provoked a highly controversial international reaction, as well as will ensure that the Syrian border guards arrive at the border, which is very important," Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry press service.
The Turkey-led Operation Peace Spring, which kicked off on October 9, was aimed at fighting the PKK, an internationally recognized terror organization, along its borders in north of Syria. Officials in Ankara claim that they will repatriate some of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees currently residing on its territory as soon as the campaign ends ensuring the creation of the safe zone.
In the document, both parties have reaffirmed their commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria and called for continuing cooperation in a way that serves the goal of fighting terrorism in all forms.
Under the agreement, Russian military police and Syrian border guards controlled by President Bashar Al Assad will facilitate the withdrawal of Kurdish fighters and weaponry to the depth of a 30-kilometer (nearly 19-mile) zone on the Syrian side of the Turkish-Syrian border.
The Kurdish YPG militants, an offshoot of PKK, have been given 150 hours, a little over six days, starting from 12.00 noon on October 23, to withdraw. After that, Turkish and Russian soldiers will begin jointly patrolling the area to a depth of ten kilometers to the west and the east of the perimeter of Operation Peace Spring.
The Turkish government has for long been fighting against the PKK and its offshoots known as YPG and PYD, as well as the remainder of what was once ISIS’ self-declared caliphate in Syria located along the southern borders of Turkey. Terror attacks by PKK resulted in the death of more than 40,000 people in Turkey over 30 years since the late 1980s.